In the mood for a slow burning, psychological thriller on Netflix? The Retribution TV series – originally titled One of Us in the United Kingdom – fits the bill nicely. It’s a smart and clever series, a tale of morality, loyalty, and murder, with suspense and an almost cinematic presentation. At four episodes, it’s a mini-series, about four hours total, made for bingeing.
Retribution opens with a wedding scene, followed by the scene of a tragic murder. Two families are affected: The Eliots and the Douglases, who live on adjacent farms in rural Scotland. Now, they’ve each lost a child. An ironic twist in the first episode forces them together, though it’s clear there’s underlying tension. When a car crashes during a severe storm, weather prevents the police and medical help from getting to the Eliots’ farm. Another crime occurs, a murder, and the guilty party could only be one of the small group present that night.
Before the police do arrive – the next day – a cover-up conspiracy forms, though not all agree that’s the best course of action. We know at some point the plan will unravel. It’s a classic mystery setup.
Louise Elliot (Juliet Stevenson) is unsteady and moody, a recovered alcoholic. Her adult children, Claire (Joanna Vanderham) and Rob (Joe Dempsie), try to protect her. Louise’s husband left years ago, and none of the kids are in touch with him. Bill and Moira Douglas (John Lynch from The Fall and Julie Graham) are left with their teenage son, Jamie. He’s sullen, angry at his parents for the decisions they make and what he sees as a lack of trust.
As Retribution progresses, Claire emerges as the conscience of the group, but nothing is black and white. Claire makes her own choice when confronted with the choice of concealing evidence or – she thinks – incriminating a family member.
DI Juliet Wallace (Laura Fraser, who we recently saw in Loch Ness), the lead investigator, faces her own dilemma. Single mom of a daughter with a life-threatening illness, she’s looking for a way to fund controversial surgery that can’t be done locally. She’s trying to solve the Eliot and Douglas murder case while committing, then concealing, her own misdeeds.
At times, Retribution takes Lifetime movie, tabloid turns, wallowing in the sadness and grief, but these pass quickly. (We also have a quibble with the mid-series drug related death.) Well-acted and well-written, the show’s other strengths prevail, resulting in a tense, tight crime drama. In true classic British mystery style, there are late-story twists, but they don’t feel forced.
Harry and Jack Williams created and wrote the Retribution TV series. It was directed by William MacGregor. BBC first aired the series as One of Us in August, 2016. Netflix secured the international distribution rights, labeling Retribution as a Netflix Original. Regardless of the title, it’s one of the better online streaming series so far in 2018.